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Thursday, January 5, 2012

Education 2012

Happy New Year!

The purpose of education has changed. It’s past time to change the methods and results.

For Socrates, a scroll could be read twenty times before crumbling. Read it each time to twenty students and you have squared the impact of the technology. Efficient.

It was really expensive to read alone in the Golden Age.

In the 1400’s, before Gutenberg, young scholars would go to University to get their education, principally to memorize the great works. Scholars were repositories of ideas for their society, walking, breathing, search engines, since a wealthy household might own two or three books. Scholars weren’t expected to put their knowledge to practical solutions, but to share their knowledge as tutors and speakers.

Classical education began as the efficient way of learning, holding, and distributing knowledge before printing.

Today some classic educators hold to that model. I can remember, as a scholarship student at a private academy, being mocked as hopelessly bourgeois (trade oriented), by a snooty trust fund academic, the end of his granddaddy’s mouthwash empire. Go Ben Franklin!

For the past decade, I have been privileged to work with students and teachers at the elementary, high school, college, and post-graduate levels. Here’s what I’ve learned.

Except for the apocalypse purveyors, there’s not much demand for memorization. Even with a really fast pen, it’s hard to out-produce a search engine.

The purpose of education is increasingly to make something, whether it’s a good story, an app, a performance, or a rocket. Then make something else. Malcolm Gladwell writes that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert.

Learning new facts is a necessary step in creation. Learning new facts in the context of creating a deliverable is more productive than learning theoretical facts without immediate usage.

Rafters were my key to decoding trigonometry.

What about theoretical physicists?

I would rather back a theoretical physicist who has experience building some of his equipment. Betcha he knows the guidelines for soldering copper water pipe, “Neat, but not gaudy.”

This week, get out there and make something. Put it on the refrigerator. Next week make a better refrigerator, then go read and love Makers.

Please MAKE a comment!

Events next week:
Capital Technology Management Hub
Tuesday, January 10, 6:30 – 6:35 pm
Arlington GMU Campus
Founders Hall, Room 126
3351 Fairfax Drive Arlington, VA 22226


Association Of Information Technology Professionals (AITP)
Thursday, January 12, 6 – 9 pm
Alfio's La Trattoria,
4515 Willard Ave, Chevy Chase MD 20815


  1. Watching young people (I have 2 daughters)they are showing us how it's already happened. Their ability to use the internet for education is second nature and across the world there is an educational or (more accurately) an informational revolution that can't be contained. So it's only us older folks that need to change, the younger ones are already there.

  2. Ooh! First time I've seen the distinction between educational and informational. You're going to give pedagogy a bad name!
    ...and thank you for commenting!

  3. Learning works best when it is applicable to something needed. I learned more about accounting in college when I was a student consultant for a trucking firm than I did in the classroom.

    Students participating in science fairs have a deeper and more enthusiastic appreciation of the principle studied.

    Learning by doing seems to advance education far more than learning by rote.

    Terrific insight.